As the blitzkrieg of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) activity in Iraq slows, relevant parties are left planning efforts to stabilize the country.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a statement on Friday saying he will pursue a third term in power and plans to stay at his post until insurgents are defeated in Iraq, despite international calls that he step down and a more representative government be formed.
“I will never give up my candidacy for the post of prime minister,” Maliki said in the statement. “I will remain a soldier, defending the interests of Iraq and its people, in the face of the [Islamic State] terrorists and its allies.”
Critics that include U.S. government officials and politicians say Maliki, a Shiite, has marginalized the Sunni minority in Iraq and contributed to the sectarian tension in the country. U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel criticized Maliki’s government two weeks ago and said it “has never fulfilled the commitments it made to bring a unity government together with the Sunnis, the Kurds and the Shiite.”
Maliki says he's not going anywhere, but neither is a shipment of American F-16 fighters.
A report by the Washington Post says until August, no Iraqi pilots will be qualified to fly the 36 F-16 fighter jets the U.S. is sending to Iraq to help combat ISIS. Maliki had previously criticized Washington for not delivering the jets fast enough. Because of the delays, Iraq bought five ground support jets from Russia and received some jets from Iran.
While ISIS has been somewhat quieted by anti-terrorism operations in Iraq, the radical Islamist group took control of more ground in Syria from rival rebel groups this week, including an oil field early Friday. The gains further solidify a large swath of land across Iraq and Syria under ISIS control.
High on June's successes, ISIS declared an Islamic state, or caliphate, in the region.
One group in Iraq that has served as a major stabilizing force, the Kurds, recieved a major backer for independence this week. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threw his support behind the Kurds' aspirations to full statehood Sunday.
"With respect to the Kurds, they are a warrior nation that is politically moderate, has proven they can be politically committed, and is worthy of statehood," Netanyahu said in a televised university speech.
The Kurds have long sought independence but faced heavy opposition from the three major countries they occupy: Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Netanyahu hopes a Kurdish state could be a moderate institution in the increasingly destabilized region.
The Kurdish state expanded its control in northern Iraq as ISIS swept across the region and drove out the Iraqi military. The Kurdish military, the Peshmerga, has fought effectively against ISIS throughout the recent surge in violence, driving militants from their territory and capturing the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. While Netanyahu supports an independent Kurdish state, the United States wants the Kurdish political wing to join a representative Iraqi government.
In a positive turn, 46 Indian nurses trapped in the embattled northern city Tikrit were freed this week, according to Indian officials. They were working at a hospital in the city and were then trapped there when ISIS militants took over the city in mid June. They were moved against their will by “bearded boys” this week, but freed to Indian officials in the Kurdish city of Irbil. They were to fly to Kochi, India, Saturday.